Rep. Torres Urges Better Coordination to Avoid Exporting Needed Medical Supplies

Norma TorresHeated Exchange with Export-Import Bank Chair Highlights Head-In-Sand Mentality as Coronavirus Spreads

WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Norma J. Torres (CA-35) implored Export-Import Bank Chair, Kimberly Reed, to avoid supporting exports of critically needed medical supplies like hand sanitizer and face masks to China as coronavirus spreads across the United States.

In a tense exchange during an oversight hearing in the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, Torres inquired about a message sent by the U.S. Commerce Department highlighting ways exporters can send medical supplies to China.

Reed responded that her priority is to facilitate exports over protecting the American public:

“Ex-Im comes in with those very important tools, to help our exporters be successful, and we have supported in the past, medical equipment.”

Torres followed up by asking if the Commerce Department and Export-Import Bank coordinated with the U.S. Coronavirus Taskforce to make sure they don’t draw down on supplies that are not available to U.S. citizens.

Reed once again prioritized exports over protecting Americans:

“I’ve communicated with all key parts of our administration that we stand ready to be helpful in any way. We need to have applications come into us, and we will promptly review any application to help our exporters get medical equipment to China or other places around the world.”

Torres pushed back:

“The priority should be to ensure that we have these medical supplies here at home, available to first responders and to American citizens before we begin to export them out, right?”

Reed responded that exports are her priority:

“Our mission is a very specific mission to support the export.”

To which Rep. Torres retorted:

“We cannot cut our nose in spite of our face. We have to protect our health needs in the U.S. The left hand has to communicate with the right hand, and we can’t say our priority is to allow folks to pay $150 for a tiny bottle of hand sanitizer because it is isn’t available anywhere in the U.S. Meanwhile, you’re working to send these critically needed supplies to China.”

Congresswoman Torres, whose district was planned as a repatriation zone for people returning from Wuhan, China, until she highlighted to the Administration that landing potentially contaminated planes in a highly populated area and transportation hub was a terrible idea, released the following statement:

“This is an all-hands-on-deck moment, yet the administration continues to act like all of their heads are buried in sand,” Rep. Torres said. “It’s not just bad policy to export vital medical supplies during a time of urgent need – it’s also just dumb. It’s one more example of how this administration prioritizes the almighty dollar over everything else, including the lives of its own people.

“The mission of the Export-Import Bank may be to streamline exports, but that mission can’t happen at the expense of our efforts to curtail a pandemic,” Rep. Torres continued. “The left hand has to communicate with the right hand if we are going to be successful, and right now, the Trump administration is failing at that basic function.

“This situation is far too grave for this kind of incompetence to continue, and I hope Ms. Reed and others in the Administration recognize the dire impact of their actions before they inflict lasting harm.”

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